Everyone loves a sunny and bright garden with bold flowers, but shady gardens can also be stunning. Partial shade perennials have delicate, exotic looks with bold colors, and some come with cool names. You should always pick plants that work in your hardiness zone and double-check to ensure that your partial shade perennial can handle your yard’s conditions. Full shade means that your plants should never get direct sunlight, but partial shade means that your plants can handle between three and four hours of sunlight each day without any damage.
For novice gardeners who have no idea what a shape plant’s care instructions entails, it simply highlights the plant’s tolerance for lower light levels. Maybe there’s an area in your garden or yard surrounded by old shade trees, or maybe you’re after low-growing plants that will flourish under your shrubs or hedges where they’ll fill in the areas close to the ground.
Perhaps you need some hardy partial shade perennials to withstand the winter months. Whatever the reason, it’s very easy to pick out partial shade perennials that are a great fit for your yard or region. We’re going to outline several popular options below and show you pictures so you can get a good feel about whether or not they’d fit into your landscape design.
1. Barrenwort (Epimedium spp.)
Barrenwort is usually dismissed by most people as a slow-growing ground cover, but it will add a huge amount of visual interest to your landscape. It offers vivid clusters of flowers in the spring months, and the foliage will show up in shades of red and gold in the later spring season. Eventually, the foliage will mature to a deep green color. In warm climates, some varieties of this partial shade plant are evergreens, and it can tolerate full shade but does best in partial shade.
To get this plant to grow the best, make sure you’re in growing zones four to eight. It likes moist, loamy, and well-draining soil. It’ll bloom in shades of pink, orange, red, whtie, purple, blue, and yellow if you get the growing conditions correct.
Barrenwort Leaves by Lorianne DiSabato / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
2. Bear’s Breeches (Acanthus mollis)
Another large partial shade perennial that produces bold flowers and foliage, this plant is a great addition to any size garden. It offers serrated, long leaves and thorn-covered stems that are very imposing. However, the tall hooded flower spikes make it more than worth it. The bumblebees and pollinators love this plant, and it grows between three and five feet high. So, it requires a decent amount of space. It’s hardy down to zone six, and it’s a plant that can be a focal point in your yard.
Acanthus mollis by Sarah’s Yard / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
3. Black Cohosh (Actaea racemosa)
Better known as bugbane, this partial shade perennial is an excellent addition to your yard. It will bloom with very little direct sunlight, and it can easily get up to six feet tall in a single season. It’s wonderful for adding texture and height to your forest garden. The dense foliage on this plant gives way to taller stalks of bottle-brush shaped clusters of white flowers in the late summer months into the early fall. Strong winds can cause damage due to the plant’s height, so you have to put it in a sheltered spot.
For the best results, plant it outside in zones three to eight. It likes part shade to full shade, and the soil should drain well but be kept to a medium moisture. Don’t get it too wet or allow it to dry out completely. As a bonus, it’s resistant to deer.
The bees love be this Black Cohash (Snake Root). By Ariel Churi / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
4. Bleeding Heart (Dicentra Spectabilis)
Despite this being a delicate-looking partial shade perennial, bleeding heart is a very durable plant that does very well when you put it in a shaded environment. The white-flowered cultivar Alba can be wonderful in a white garden theme. This plant will usually go dormant before midsummer after it blooms for several weeks. You’ll need to add late-emerging plants in your garden to fill the space this plant leaves when it goes dormant.
Bleeding heart does very well in zones two to nine, and it will produce white, pink, or red flowers, depending on the cultivar. It needs loamy, well-drained but moist soil that is neutral to acidic to grow. It can get between six inches and three feet tall and between one and three feet wide while being deer-resistant.
Bleeding Hearts by Rhonda Lee Johnson / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
5. Celandine Poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum)
The main yearly flower show for this partial shade perennial happens in the early spring months, if you cut the plants back hard as soon as they finish flowering, you can get a second flower show as they pop up out of the ground. However, you should be aware that this plant does self seed, and it can do so to the point of being overbearing, so you shouldn’t put it in small gardens or places where you don’t regularly get rid of the weeds. The cup-shaped, yellow flowers come in clusters that hover above the foot tall foliage, and it’ll survive in zones four to nine
Celandine-Poppy by Anita Gould / CC BY-NC 2.0
6. Columbine (Aquilegia spp.)
Hummingbirds and butterflies can’t resist the necar-filled, delicate blossoms this parietal shade perennial offers. There are many native columbine species available, and a lot of the commercial offerings are cultivars from Aquilegia vulgaris. You get bell-shaped flowers that come in a huge range of colors, and this is a very easy plant to grow in the shade. It’ll spread through self-seeding, and it gets roughly two feet tall and blooms in the late spring months into the early summer. Columbine is prone to problems with leaf miners, but you can cut the foliage back after it blooms to ward them off.
This plant does very well in zones three to eight when you plant it outside, and it can produce flowers in hues of white, yellow, red, purple, pink, or bicolors. It needs a well-draining average soil that you keep to a medium moisture level throughout the growing season.
Columbine by Nick Fullerton / CC BY 2.0
7. Creeping Veronica (Veronica umbrosa ‘Georgia’)
Hardy in zones four to eight, this partial shade perennial is a great groundcover to consider. There are other cultivars available too, but ‘Georgia Blue’ is a fan favorite. The bright blue flowers this plant produces during the late spring season will come with a white center eye and trailing foliage that is a glossy green color that will turn a deep burgundy in the fall. If you don’t want it as a groundcover, you can use it as a colorful addition to your woodland perennial garden. It tops out at six inches high.
Creeping Veronica by dog of the forest / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
8. False Spirea (Astilbe spp.)
The flower plumes this partial shade perennial blooms during the spring and summer months in various shades of purple, pink, red, and white. There are several different varieties available, and they can range from six inches high up to five feet, so you should choose yours carefully. They do best in parietal shade, but they can survive in full shade or full sun. Since they produce such showy flowers, this plant is a very heavy feeder. You can divide them every three years or so, and they’re a low-maintenance plant.
If you live in zones three to eight, you can have this partial shade perennial without a problem. It likes loamy soil that drains well, but it does require a bit of water constantly to keep the soil moist without soaking it.
False Spirea by madaise / CC BY-ND 2.0
9. Geranium (Geranium spp.)
Geraniums are a partial shade perennial that can be a showy addition to your floral garden. You may get fewer blooms when you plant it in partial shade instead of full sun, but the pops of color are still plenty noticeable. You’ll have to pay these plants minimal attention, and they’ll spread a bit further each year. They’re also very easy to transplant and divide, so you can easily use them to fill in bare spots around your garden.
These partial shade perennials do well in zones three to nine, but certain varieties do better in zone three over nine. They’ll bloom in shades of purple, pink, blue, or white, and they can get between 6 and 24 inches tall and wide, based on the variety. They’re resistant to deer, and they like loamy, well-drained soil that is moist and neutral to acidic.
Geranium by Surely Shirly / CC0 1.0
10. Goat’s Beard (Aruncus dioicus)
This partial shade perennial is a nice choice if you’re looking for dramatic white flowers. This towering, large plant can work as a focal point in your garden bed, and it can tolerate partial shade well. It’ll grow bigger if you put it in a sunny location though. It has plenty of flowers each season, and you don’t have to deadhead the spent blooms. If you do, you’ll get more flower growth.
Goat’s beard does best outside in zones four to seven, and it only produces white and cream-colored flowers. It’s resistant to deer, and it’ll top out at four to six feet tall and two to four feet wide. The soil should be alkaline to acidic and loamy but moist and well-drained.
Aruncus dioicus by Megan Hansen / CC BY-SA 2.0
11. Green and Gold (Chrysogonum virginianum)
This partial shade perennial is another fun groundcover that works in front of a border. You get medium-green, low leaves that get covered with bright canary yellow, daisy-like blossoms in the early spring months. It’s a very fast spreader without being invasive, and it’ll form a dense mat. It’s native to North America, and it’s perfect to help fill in spaces in your yard. It tops out at six inches tall at the maximum, and it’s hardy in zones five to nine.
Chrysogonum virginianum by peganum / CC BY-SA 2.0
12. Hosta (Hosta spp.)
It’s hard to picture any shade garden without hostas in them. Hostas are available in several different cultivars, including the Patriot hosta with green leaves with a very thick white border on the margins. These partial shade perennials do best if you water them at the base instead of overhead to help ward off fungal growth on the plant’s foliage.
Put your hostas outside in zones three to eight and watch for the purple blooms to shoot up from stalks in the center of the plant. They like moist but well-drained soil that is acidic to neutral, and they can get between 12 to 18 inches tall and 20 to 32 inches wide, depending on the cultivar you plant.
Hosta by madaise / CC BY-ND 2.0
13. Hydrangea (Hydrangea spp.)
Hydrangeas are partial shade perennials that grow and bloom during the summer months in an array of colors. One of the most popular cultivars you can get is the Incrediball hydrangea, and it has huge flower clusters that survive until the first frost of the season. The best spot to plant hydrangeas is somewhere that gets full morning sun but afternoon shade. You’ll want to prune it early in the spring to keep it neat.
This partial shade perennial does best in zones five to nine, and it can produce green, purple, red, blue, yellow, white, or pink blooms. Depending on the variety, it can get up to 15 feet tall, but it’s not resistant to deer. The soil should drain well but be moist and loamy, and it should also be alkaline to acidic.
Hydrangea by Syoko Matsumura / CC BY 2.0
14. Lamb’s Ear (Stachys byzantina)
Lamb’s ear works wonderfully as a partial shade perennial in the edges of your garden or in a living wall. It won’t bloom as profusely in partial shade, but it has softer gray foliage that helps brighten up the area. The fuzzy texture on the leaves will hold drops of dew that then act like prisms in the early morning sun. If you’re not interested in this plant’s flowers, you can remove them so the plant focuses more on growing foliage.
This plant does very well in zones four to nine, and it produces purple flowers. It’s resistant to deer, and it can get between 12 and 18 inches tall and 12 inches wide at full maturity. The soil should be loamy and acidic but well-drained and kept at a medium moisture level.
Stachys byzantina by Carl Lewis / CC BY 2.0
15. Leopard Plant (Ligularia spp.)
Most arguably one of the most striking partial shade perennials available, this beautiful and colorful plant is difficult to miss. Depending on the species you pick out, tall clusters or spikes of bright yellow flowers will shoot above the serrated or heart-shaped leaves in the middle of summer. It’ll reach up to four feet high, and it tolerates wet soil conditions well. If you let it dry out, it’ll wilt quickly. It’s hardy to zones four and eight, and there are several varieties you can choose from when you shop.
Leopard Plant by Drew Avery / CC BY 2.0
16. Lungwort (Pulmonaria saccharata)
Better known as Bethlehem sage, this partial sun perennial is known for the flowers and foliage. It will bloom in the early spring months with flowers that start out a pink color before they turn blue. The dark green leaves have white spots on them. Exposure to full sun can burn these plants, so partial shade is a must.
This partial shade perennial does well in zones three to eight. It needs rich soil that drains very well, but you can’t even let the soil dry out completely or it’ll damage the plant. You want to aim for medium moisture.
Lungwort by Jason Hollinger / CC BY 2.0
17. Meadow Rue (Thalictrum aquilegifolium)
Meadow Rue is a partial sun perennial that grows a clump of lacy foliage that is blue-green at the base. The fuzzy flowers will then rise above the foliage during the last spring and early summer months. The plant can tolerate being in full sun conditions, but it likes dappled shade. In hotter climates, it’s essential that this plant has shade or it’ll die. It’s a fairly-low maintenance choice, but it doesn’t like the roots disturbed if you can help it.
Plant Meadow Rue in zones five to eight in dappled shade. It’ll produce lilac purple flowers under the correct conditions. It needs average soil that you keep to a medium moisture level and ensure that it drains well after each watering session.
Alpine Flower Fireworks Mürren by Joel Bradford / CC BY-ND 2.0
18. Monkshood (Aconitum napellus)
Monkshood is a partial shade perennial that will tolerate full sun. The plant gets the name from the shape of the deep bluish-purple flowers that can last up to two months well into the late summer months and appear on five or six-foot stalks. This is a nice choice for late-season color when most other plants are done blooming. It has a great resistance to diseases and pests, but you may have to stake it in windy areas to keep it upright. Also, every part of the plant is poisonous.
Monkshood does very well when you plant it in zones three to seven. The soil should be very rich to support flower growth, but it should drain well after your watering sessions so the roots aren’t sitting in water.
Monkshood by utahwildflowers / CC BY 2.0
19. Mourning Widow Perennial Geranium (Geranium phaeum)
Of every hardy geranium, this is one of the best ones to include on the partial shade perennial list because it tolerates much more shade than a lot of varieties. The green leaves have splotches of chocolate-brown on them and dark purplish-maroon blooms that are almost black. They pop up above the foliage from spring through the late summer months. It’s also winter hardy down to zone five, and it’ll get up to two feet tall while being low maintenance.
Geranium phaeum by Joan Simon / CC BY-SA 2.0
20. Primrose (Primula spp.)
Primroses are one of the partial shade perennials that are the first to bloom during the spring. The bold blooms will rise above the deep green foliage using sturdy stalks, and the plants can handle minimum sun in early spring. However, they won’t survive prolonged sun exposure in the summer months. There are many varieties available, and most of them grow as annuals.
This plant does well in zones three to eight, and they’ll produce flowers in all colors except green. They like very rich soil that drains well, and you have to keep the soil semi-moist without allowing it to dry out.
Primrose by stanze / CC BY-SA 2.0
21. Siberian Bugloss (Brunnera macrophylla)
This partial sun perennial is a close relative of the forget-me-nots, and it’s a clump-forming flower that gets up to 18-inches tall. The blue flowers will appear in the middle of April and May, and it offers heart-shaped dark green leaves that are an attractive point throughout the growing season. This plant works well in mass planting conditions, and it needs dappled shade because the sun can scorch the foliage.
Plant your Siberian Bugloss in zones three to eight for the best results. It needs average soil that drains well but you work to keep consistently moist to keep it happy. Don’t allow the soil to dry out.
Siberian Bugloss by Patrick Standish / CC BY 2.0
22. Silver Mound Artemisia (Artemisia schmidtiana ‘Silver Mound’)
This partial shade perennial is a Artemisia schmidtiana cultivar that has a mounding, small growth habit with lacy silver-colored foliage. It works well as an edging plant for a shaded spot, and it won’t spread invasively. It can also tolerate hotter sun very well, and it resists attacks from deer. You also won’t have to worry too much about water for it to thrive, so it’s a fairly low-maintenance choice.
Silver Mound Artemisia will grow best in zones four to eight, and it can get a foot tall by 18 inches wide, so it works well to fill in dead space. It needs neutral to alkaline soil conditions with dry to medium moisture.
Artemisia ‘Silver Mound’ by rosehillgardens_WI / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
23. Spotted Dead Nettle (Lamium maculatum)
This perennial ground cover plant can grow in partial shade to full sun without a problem, and it can tolerate much shadier conditions as long as you make a point to not overwater it. However, it won’t produce as many flowers under these conditions. This plant is available in several varieties, including ones that have green and silver foliage and ones that produce white flowers.
Spotted Dead Nettle grows best in zones four to eight, and it’ll produce flowers in hues of white, purple, and pink. It can get between 3 and 12 inches tall and one to three feet wide at full maturity. The soil should be acidic and drain well between watering sessions.
Spotted Dead Nettle by Timo Newton-Syms / CC BY-SA 2.0
24. Toadlily (Tricyrtis spp.)
The toadlily is a unique shade-loving perennial. It has an orchid-like appearance that is very pretty, and both the late-season blooms and the plant can stop anyone who sees them for a second look. There are many varieties of this partial shade perennial available, but most come with whtie blooms with speckles of burgundy, rose, or pink on them. The leaves will wrap around the stems, and they come in a huge range of heights, depending on the variety. They are hardy in zones five to eight and they spread very nicely.
Toad Lily by Peter Miller / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
25. Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica)
The final partial shade perennial on the list is a native wildflower that works very well in shady woodland gardens. It will get roughly two feet tall, and it’s a clump-forming plant that produces clusters of blue, trumpet-shaped flowers in March and April. The plant is ephemeral, and this means that the foliage will die back and vanish after the blooms finish for the season. Since this plant goes dormant in the summer, you should overplant them with perennials or annuals that will fill in the gaps like hostas.
Plant Virginia Bluebells in zones three to eight for the best results. They like average soil that drains well when you water it, but you have to keep it to a medium moisture level.
Virginia Bluebells by Joan / CC BY-NC 2.0
We’ve highlighted 25 partial shade perennials that you can add to your yard or garden this season. They come in a host of colors and heights, and it’s easy to pick out several varieties to create a stunning gardenscape that lasts well into the autumn months.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.